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Activists occupy service centre to demand re-enrolment for international student

The University failed to respond to Kapoor’s requests for a short three-day extension to secure enough money for the repayment.

Photo: Sydney University Education Action Group

This afternoon, around 20 student activists entered and occupied the Student Centre in the Jane Foss Russell building for one hour to demand re-enrolment for international student Aman Kapoor. 

In an email sent to Kapoor by the University on 30 September, he was informed that he had been un-enrolled in his Bachelor of Architecture and Environments degree and had to pay the full remaining balance of $41,000 by 6 October lest he be denied any pathway to re-enrolment in the future. A second email told Kapoor that his situation had been reported to the Department of Home Affairs, and that he was at risk of losing both his student visa and accommodation at Sydney University Village.

As a result, his family has resorted to selling their house in India in order to raise enough money for the sudden demand. However, due to an unfortunate coincidence in public holiday dates in India and Australia, Kapoor feared that the bank transfer would not arrive in time.

The University failed to respond to Kapoor’s requests for a short three-day extension to secure enough money for the repayment. They also denied a request to allow the fee to be paid in instalments, citing administrative difficulties caused by the pandemic by way of justification.

“As an international student, it was nothing less than torture to be threatened with debt collectors, enrollment, and visa cancellation after explaining my financial situation to the university multiple times,” Kapoor told Honi.

“I don’t even have money to pay my rent or buy food, but rather than provide me with support the university has ignored my pleas and canceled my enrolment.”

After a one hour occupation, in which Kapoor and several student activists explained the urgency of the situation to the services staff, SRC President Liam Donohoe was able to directly contact the office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Pip Pattison. 

A three-day extension was immediately approved for Kapoor. This stands in contrast to the months of pre-emptive emails Kapoor had sent requesting leniency on repayment dates and regarding his family’s financial difficulties.

A University spokesperson told Honi: “We are unable to disclose any information about individual cases due to our commitment to maintaining student privacy and our obligations under relevant legislation.”

“We have been working with a small number of students for a number of months to assist them to pay outstanding fees, including the granting of payment extensions in Semester 1.  In exceptional cases we have again granted further extensions.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re making genuine attempts to respond to students’ individual circumstances. We’ve introduced a number of support measures to address the range of challenges our students are facing including financial assistance, mental health and wellbeing support, peer-to-peer support and technology assistance.”

Earlier in the year, Kapoor was responsible for starting a campaign at Sydney University Village for a rent amnesty during the coronavirus pandemic, which was quickly shut down by management. He was also responsible for the photograph of recent protests that featured on the front cover of Honi’s Week 3, Semester 2 edition

This article was updated with comment from the University.